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It’s never too early to start saving for retirement

smiling couple hugging on the beach excited about retirement
August 29, 2017

By Maggie Tomasek

The one sentiment echoed by a huge number of the 4,000-plus entrants of our recent Smartest Financial Decision Contest was the importance of saving for retirement. Bottom line: It’s never too early to start.

We’ve compiled some of the top retirement savings entries in order to pass along the smart-money knowledge:

  • “I went with my first employer's 401(k) and chose to make the highest deduction that he would match when I started working at 16 – I knew retirement was far, far, far away but I just could not pass up the opportunity to have him put as much money into MY account as I did. Over time that 401(k) has grown to a huge amount and I have been able to transfer it to new jobs and employers as I grew in my career. NEVER pass up the opportunity to have someone invest in you – especially when all you have to do is invest in yourself!” – Abbey K.
  • “The smartest decision I made was to prepare for retirement by actually living on my retirement budget before I retired. My robo investment software estimated how much money I would have. I took my current budget, adjusted for post-retirement expenses like Medicare and then compared the amounts. Fortunately my income will be more than my expenses! I then kept myself to my budget to get used to less income. Now retirement won't be such a shock!” – Gail. V.
  • “The smartest financial decision I ever made was at 18 when I decided to open a Roth IRA with the $3,000 I had saved up working during high school. Most of my friends thought I was crazy not to spend it on a trip or having fun in college, but now – after a decade of career twists and turns, a divorce, and unstable income – I look at that Roth and its growth, and I know that prioritizing my retirement was the right decision. It set up a pattern of good financial decisions and the hope that I might have enough to retire to Europe!” – Tiffany I.
  • “The best decision, that has made retirement much easier, is the ease of "laddering.” No, not house painting. Alliant CD laddering has consistently outpaced inflation and given us extra dollars to keep our retirement on a smoother plane. To the younger readers, this may sound minor, but besides slamming as much as you can into IRAs, CD laddering has become very useful to balance out our retirement.” – David F.
  • “Clearly the smartest financial decision I made was the decision to max out my yearly 401(k) contribution and when I became eligible make an additional "catch up" contribution. Some years I couldn't swing the "catch-up" contribution but always added something. … I figured out how much I needed to contribute each paycheck over a period of 10 months to make the maximum contribution. I did it over 10 months, so I'd be maxed out by the end of October and that would give me some extra spending money for the holidays. The first year was a challenge; I was tempted to change my contribution a few times, but after a while, it became easier to deal with and very rewarding to see my 401(k) grow. I am now retired and living very comfortably, I have enough money to not worry about the future and hopefully will live long enough enjoy spending every penny. The small sacrifices you make early on will pay off in the long run. They may not seem like small sacrifices at first, but looking at the big picture, they are.” – Frances S.
  • “Every year I got a raise, I put half the money into my retirement account and … I was able to retire at 62. The last few years I was maxing out the amount I could contribute. It was fairly painless as I still got half the raise and did not miss money I never saw – except as the account grew.” – Dolores N.
  • “The smartest financial decision I made was to rollover old 401(k)s and 403(b)s from previous employers into a new IRA account, so I can see how my retirement is growing in one place and so I can contribute more, no matter where I work! I look forward to gaining the tax break from my contributions next year!” – Christa L.

Maggie Tomasek is the PR and Social Media Specialist at Alliant. She began her career as a journalist for newspapers in Utica, N.Y., Des Moines and Cincinnati before moving to Chicago in 2009. Maggie is a six-time Chicago Marathon finisher and a lifelong creative writer with a passion for comedy. Her mom instilled in her a great sense of fiscal responsibility, and her big sister told her to throw that responsibility out the window every once in a while in the name of life experience. So far, that combination of financial advice has worked out pretty well for her.